Anti-Business Forces Held at Bay:
Business Avoids More Than $1 Billion in Additional Taxes
In 2008, retailers and business in general survived what has been referred to as one of the most anti-business regular sessions on record. However, among the more than 1,500 bills introduced, not a single bill that would harm business received final approval during the entire 30 legislative days that stretched between Feb. 5 and May 19. In fact, the Alabama Retail Association and other business groups worked together throughout the session to keep at least $1 billion in new taxes from being imposed on Alabama businesses.
When the dust cleared, here’s how select bills among the more than 100 that Alabama Retail supported, opposed or monitored during the 2008 regular session came out:
What WE Did:
AVERTED $700 MILLION IN ADDITIONAL UNEMPLOYMENT TAXES
Legislation to make a federally mandated correction in the 2005 State Unemployment Tax Act (SUTA) was a primary plank in your Alabama Retail Association 2008 Legislative Agenda. Gov. Bob Riley signed the correction into law on May 8, thus avoiding $700 MILLION in additional unemployment taxes for Alabama businesses. Without this revised act, federal unemployment taxes for each employee would have gone from $56 to $434 per employee a $378 increase for each employee!
ADDED ONE-WEEK WAITING PERIOD WITHOUT UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS
On May 19, a one-week break after the 13th week of unemployment benefits became law. The total amount of benefits that can be paid — 26 weeks — doesn’t change, but workers will collect those benefits over 27 weeks instead of 26, saving employers a week of benefit expense.
What THEY Didn’t Do:
Often more important than passing legislation is killing legislation that would be detrimental to retailers. Alabama Retail had a hand in keeping some extremely bad legislation from being enacted.
ADD $300 MILLION MORE IN TAXES; FOR TOTAL OF $1 BILLION IN TAXES
Hard economic times made it tempting in the 2008 regular session for the Alabama Legislature to add taxes to balance the budgets.
Alabama Retail played a part in stopping some of these revenue-raising measures, including:
- a $100 million change in 2001 add-back statute dealing with corporate income tax deductions;
- approval of unitary combined reporting;
- a $59 million loss of state applications of depreciation deductions included in the federal economic stimulus package; and
- a $10 million doubling of the caps on business privilege taxes.
DISMANTLE ALABAMA’S WORKERS’ COMPENSATION ACT
Thanks to an outcry from retailers and other business owners throughout the state, six bills that would have rewritten the Alabama’s Workers’ Compensation Act died without a committee hearing. Collectively, these bills would have erased every bit of economic progress we’ve accomplished in our state in the past decade. The bills would have removed benefit caps, increased employers’ liability, made it easier to sue employers and forced employers to relinquish control of medical costs.
MAKE COOL COOL
For the sixth year, Alabama Retail kept mandated country-of-origin labeling for seafood products from swimming through the legislative process. Country-of-origin labeling for all fish and for catfish exclusively didn’t make it upstream in 2008. Alabama Retail supports more positive programs such as the “Eat Alabama Wild Shrimp Campaign” and has pledged to help the Alabama catfish industry to promote its products with Alabama retailers.
PUNISH RETAILERS FOR COMPUTER DATA BREACHES
Legislation never made it out of committee that would have created new, private causes of actions by financial institutions against retailers responsible for a security breach and would have held retailers liable to financial institutions for costs to protect customer information. This issue has national application and is better left to federal control.
PROHIBIT PHARMACISTS FROM SUBSTITUTING ANTI-EPELEPTIC GENERICS
For the second year, neither Alabama Legislature chamber voted on legislation that would have prohibited pharmacists from substituting any anti-epileptic therapeutic product without notifying the prescribing physician and patient. The Legislature did create the Epilepsy Patients and Medication Interchange Joint Interim Legislative Commission, which is to report its recommendations to the Legislature no later than the fifth legislative day of the 2009 regular session.
TAKE THE PARTY OUT OF JUDICIAL ELECTIONS
Alabama Retail maintained its opposition to nonpartisan elections and other changes to how Alabama selects its judges. No measure that would strip Alabama voters of their right to elect judges or change the current judicial election system received approval in the 2008 session.
What’s LEFT to Do:
Some issues not addressed in 2008 will be revisited in 2009.
LATE FEE INCREASE:
Alabama Retail will work again next year for passage of a modest increase to $18 for the late fee for credit payments.
SALES TAX HOLIDAY FOR ENERGY EFFICIENT PRODUCTS:
Building on the popularity of the Alabama Retail-inspired school sales tax holiday, Alabama Retail will once again support a holiday for energy-efficient products.
PROSECUTION OF WORTHLESS ELECTRONIC CHECKS:
Alabama’s district attorneys aren’t prosecuting cases involving checks that don’t require the writer to sign them. Alabama Retail will continue to work with the Alabama District Attorneys Association and the Alabama Bankers Association to bring the state’s bad check laws into the electronic age by including electronic funds transfers or signature-on-file transactions.
STORE DIGITAL PRESCRIPTIONS AS THE ORIGINAL:
Alabama Retail will try again to get lawmakers to pass legislation that would allow pharmacies to capture a digital image of a prescription and store it as the original prescription. Increased use of e-prescribing and electronic medical health records necessitates this change in law.